North Korea nuclear crisis

Is there any way back from the US-North Korea black hole of confrontation? China’s foreign minister is not optimistic

The crisis can be resolved but sabre-rattling has to stop, Wang Yi says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 3:46pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 6:50pm

The Korean peninsula is engulfed in a “vicious cycle” of confrontation but there is still a chance for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, according to China’s foreign minister.

The assessment on Saturday by Foreign Minister Wang Yi came as North Korea blamed the United States for tensions in the region, accusing Washington of “nuclear blackmail”.

The US and North Korea have rattled sabres over the last fortnight – the United States sent a B-1B bomber to join massive aerial drills with South Korea on Wednesday a week or so after North Korea tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile.

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Wang said Washington and Seoul should stop holding major military exercises and Pyongyang put a halt to its nuclear weapons programme.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula is still plunged into the strong and vicious cycle of confrontation, and the prospect is not optimistic,” he said.

“We should pull the Korean peninsula back from the black hole of confrontation to create the necessary conditions for resuming talks.”

Wang also stressed that any action outside the framework of the United Nations Security Council would damage the council’s unity and the legitimate rights of other nations.

The UN has moved up a gear to try to get ahead of the crisis in recent days.

UN undersecretary general Jeffrey Feltman arrived in Beijing on Saturday after wrapping up a five-day visit to Pyongyang, the first by a UN diplomat of his rank since 2010.

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During the trip he met North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and vice-foreign minister Pak Myong-kuk, North Korean state news agency KCNA reported.

“At these meetings, our side said the US policy of hostility towards [North Korea] and its nuclear blackmail are to blame for the current tense situation on the Korean peninsula,” the report said.

It added that Pyongyang agreed with the UN “to regularise communications through visits at various levels”.

Pyongyang repeated its position that US and South Korean military drills amounted to provocation and revealed “an intention to mount a surprise nuclear pre-emptive strike against [North Korea]”.

In the last week, Beijing has dispatched vice-foreign minister Zheng Zeguang to Washington to discuss the crisis and other issues with US officials, according to the Chinese embassy in Washington.

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But ties between China and North Korea have deteriorated, with Pyongyang dismayed at Beijing’s support for UN sanctions – so much so that Song Tao, a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, failed to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on a trip to Pyongyang last month.

Russia has also offered to set up direct talks between the US and North Korea, a move China’s foreign ministry said it welcomed.

But diplomatic observers said it was yet another sign that North Korea had drifted further away from China.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse